The NPLWA – Women’s action resumes this weekend as Curtin University look to build on their first win of the season.
It has been a tough campaign for Curtin who likely entered 2021 full of optimism after three wins in their final four matches last season. But despite an opening day draw with last year’s runners-up Perth, the momentum was not carried over as seven defeats in eight games followed.
Things are looking up again, though, following the recent appointment of new head coach Dom Gangemi, whose arrival has coincided with a run of just one loss in four games.
Several fit-again players have also returned to boost the squad during a disrupted first month at the helm for Gangemi. This included a catch-up game with Subiaco and a clash with then-league leaders Northern Redbacks in the space of 48 hours, both of which ended in draws. A day later, Perth went into lockdown and later that week they played behind closed doors at defending champions MUM FC where no fans were permitted due to restrictions.
Having negotiated that tricky period, Curtin then raced into a three-goal lead against Hyundai NTC in Round 14 at Edinburgh Oval and held firm to claim a long-awaited first three points of the season. Gangemi believes the win was reward for the great response shown by the playing group since he arrived.
“What I felt the girls needed was a positive mindset and to know that they are good enough, they just needed that confidence and belief,” he said.
“In three weeks, you can’t tactically and technically be perfect, but psychologically you can improve. When I stepped into the job, I saw we had a lot of players missing, but we’ve had players recover and have managed to train well since.
“I’m very happy with the girls. We have a good group that can become better and better alongside a strong ‘23s’ (who are currently top of their league), and we will continue to work on the philosophy of how we want to play. But I’m already seeing a lot of good signs, they’re fighting, they’ve shown character and it’s all positive.
“The draws against Subiaco and Redbacks gave us motivation, then the MUM FC loss was a tough one for us. But against NTC, it was the first time we were able to prepare for a game properly and the girls showed good discipline. I was happy to win, but I’m happy we won playing good football, too.”
Gangemi is Australia-born, but his football education primarily took place in Italy where he played and coached at semi-professional level. Since then, he has worked with several Serie A clubs, including Atalanta whom he is still currently involved with as a scout. In Perth, he has had spells at Fremantle City as Technical Director and UWA Nedlands as Men’s State League coach.
In terms of his first month with Curtin, the weekend off for last week’s State Cup final arrived at a good moment for Gangemi, with additional time for coaching and video analysis available. This Saturday at 5pm they host a Perth SC side who defeated them 5-0 in June thanks to five goals in the final 20 minutes.
Curtin have otherwise proved a bogey side for the Azzurri in the NPLW era with draws in both previous league meetings at Edinburgh Oval, and a win at Dorrien Gardens late last season which ended Perth’s title hopes.
“The mentality we’ve tried to ingrain is to go into every game to win and play our football no matter the opposition,” Gangemi said.
“We know Perth is going to be a tough game. We have great respect for them as a club, one of the strongest in WA, but now we have confidence from the NTC game and want to try and get a positive result.
“The goal is to finish this season as well as possible. That’s my first objective. Then the longer-term project is to improve in the NPLW as much as possible. We want to play a big part in this competition and hopefully make it stronger.
“We’ve got something here to make something special happen. The club has a good atmosphere and the girls have real potential. For me as a coach, I can’t ask for anything better than to have a group who want to learn, grow and play the best football we can.”
Round 15 begins on Friday Night when Women’s State Cup winners Murdoch University Melville look to build on their two-point lead at the top of the NPLW when they host Fremantle City.
MUM FC won the last league meeting between the pair thanks to Baxter Thew’s late goal, but City had previously taken points off the defending champions in their first three clashes of the NPLW era.
On Sunday, Northern Redbacks will aim to keep pace with the leaders when they welcome NTC to Celebration Park at 3pm.
Redbacks could even go reclaim top spot if MUM FC lose to Fremantle and they beat an NTC side still in the race for a Top Four Cup spot.
Round 15 is completed at Rosalie Park when cup runners-up Balcatta travel to a Subiaco side still looking for their first NPLW win.
All four matches will be live streamed on the Football West Facebook and YouTube pages,
Murdoch University Melville v Fremantle City (Wormall Civil Stadium 7.30pm)
Curtin University v Perth SC (Edinburgh Oval 5pm)
Northern Redbacks v Hyundai NTC (Celebration Park 3pm)
Subiaco v Balcatta (Rosalie Park 3pm)
Image: Rob Lizzi